Poverty in this country, this province and this region is no longer an issue. No, when the UN takes time to denounce Canada’s willful neglect of the poor, when B.C. maintains one of the highest poverty rates in the country year after year, when our region struggles with skyrocketing rents, homelessness and the institutionalized marginalization of the poor, poverty is no longer an issue — it is a crisis.
Thankfully, this crisis has begun to galvanize anti-poverty groups here in The Capital. Gathered for a celebratory picnic in Mason St. park last Tuesday were the people who are slowly but surely shaping the world in which our poorest residents have no choice but to live.
The gathering marked the launch of the Community Social Planning council’s Community Action Plan on Poverty. The CAP on Poverty outlines a truly fair minimum standard of living — one that includes not only access to necessities, but recognizes the need for meaningful work, equal access to the justice system, and the importance of a vibrant local economy.
Also celebrating were staff from the Vancouver Island Public Interest Group who are working on the Safer For All campaign. Flowing from the Out of Sight study, which revealed the strained relationship between the Victoria Police Department and people living in poverty, Safer For All is lobbying the City of Victoria and VicPD to abandon law enforcement as the sole solution to visible poverty.
Like Out of Sight, the CAP on Poverty does something more than just record information, it places the reality of poverty in this region into a format that can be easily understood by politicians and policy makers who have never experienced it.
Tuesday’s event also marked the end of a campaign by Social Coast to raise awareness of the role of private property in supporting social profiling and the marginalization of the poor. The campaign saw 50 local businesses agree to post signs declaring their commitment to inclusive public space over the sterility of private property.
Regardless of whether government has caught on to the crisis of poverty these and other organizations seek to address, the collective effort in recent months to identify not only the roots of poverty in our region but the policies, prejudices and institutions that have failed to address this issue will surely prove invaluable in the years to come. M